Jump Swing Forward-Introduction-Prologue
for Healthy Endurance
American Health Disparities
Why Are There So Many Black Athletes?
BY HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor's
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Labor Force Statistics
From the Current Population Survey," last year
African Americans were represented in a broad range
of occupations. I encourage you to check out the full
list, but below are the jobs that caught my eye, including
both the raw numbers and percentages (in parentheses)
of black workers within each job category. For reference,
the 16.1 million African Americans working in 2013
made up 11.2 percent of all employed U.S. workers
and were approximately 13.2 percent of the population
as a whole.
· Police and sheriff's patrol officers: 98,974
(14.2 percent of all police and sheriff's patrol officers)
· Post-secondary teachers: 89,284 (6.8 percent
of all post-secondary teachers)
· Physicians and surgeons: 59,776 (6.4 percent
of all physicians and surgeons)
· Chefs: 58,225 (13.7 percent of all chefs)
· Lawyers: 45,864 (4.2 percent of all lawyers)
· Clergy: 37,310 (9.1 percent of all clergy)
· Civil engineers: 23,040 (6.4 percent of all
· Pharmacists: 14,958 (5.4 percent of all pharmacists)
· Writers and authors: 10,032 (4.8 percent
of all writers and authors)
· Dentists: 8,601 (4.7 percent of all dentists,
including my brother, Dr. Paul Gates)
· Psychologists: 6,696 (3.6 percent of all
· Architects: 3,088 (1.6 percent of all architects)
Take, for example, the NFL. As recently as 2012,
there were only 1,804 professional black players in
the league. And in the NBA, which, to many, is synonymous
with black popular culture, there were only 350 black
players in 2012! Although basketball looms large in
the black cultural imagination, NBA squads are quite
The most amazing fact of all? Get this: In 2012, there
were more black neurologists (411) and black cardiologists
(690) by far than all of the black men playing in
the NBA (350)!
Those are the most recent numbers, taken from Physician
Characteristics and Distribution in the US 2014, by
Derek R. Smart, a publication of the American Medical
Association. And the number of black brain surgeons
(230) was equal to 60 percent of the number of black
men playing in the NBA. That number is rising, too.
Soon there will be more black brain surgeons than
black basketball players.
Nevertheless, far too many of our children believe
that it is, statistically, easier to make it into
the NBA or the NFL than it is to make it into college
and go on to professional school.